by Kris Lyseggen and Herb Schreier
"In their own voice, often in what is their second, third, or fourth language, through their transfeminist movement started by some very brave transgender women in the rural areas and townships, these transgender pioneers share their intimate stories about being trans and Xhosa in post-Apartheid South Africa. The belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity, I Am, Therefore, We Are, is one of many ways to describe the philosophy behind the term Ubuntu. Many South Africans, like Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, made Ubuntu known to the West during and after Apartheid, describing it simply as humanness, showing humanity to others, and togetherness, for without each other we are nothing. Ubuntu, they explained, was their way of life, deeply rooted in their traditions for generations, across their country and the sub-Saharan African continent. Unfortunately, the political and systematic failure of their governments to live up to the ideals of their new constitution, one that was based on reconciliation, was failing the very people it was meant to serve after decades of abasement under colonialism. We hope that this book will shed some light on what we found most encouraging about the stories they shared with us, that of the incredible resilience among the many young transgender women in one of the most violent places on earth, especially for women but also men, and for LGBT people in particular—a country oftentimes called “The Rape Nation.” Violence is the lot of most women throughout the world, but South Africa now must feel like a huge betrayal. After a heroic route toward freedom, perhaps unique in history, one without a bloodbath committed by the oppressed majority, it must feel like an incredible letdown that the country continues to look away from the violence against humans and their humanness. These transwomen constantly demonstrated that through their intelligence, strength, and stubbornness they would not cease to push for the cause of being allowed to be who they are. They call it “Transilience.” On our trips to South Africa to record their struggles, we were again and again reminded of their irresistible, interesting culture and history.
In their own words, here are their stories.